Change the World By How You Shop: LeAnne McCoy
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Intro: Welcome to the Simple Switch Podcast where you'll join me, Rachel, the Founder of Simple Switch to talk about conscious consumerism and positive impact purchasing. Spending our money in a way that helps our planet and the people on it can be complicated and frustrating and we're passionate about bringing ease to your journey. Join us as we demystify big ideas about conscious consumerism and hear from amazing business owners using their work for positive change. Thanks for being here and enjoying the show.
Rachel: Hey Simple Switchers! Holidays and Christmas are right around the corner, and I know a lot of you are looking for ethical gifts. We just started a pledge on the Simple Switch website and on our social media that allows you to commit to giving 60% or more of your gifts from sustainable or ethical companies this year. If you share about taking that pledge on your social media, you will get 20% off your next purchase on Simple Switch. We want to make it easier for you, but we also want you to know that we are not the only option to help you with ethical and sustainable shopping. Tons of you already have partners that you love and are committed to buying from. A great place to find places that align with your values is Change the World by How You Shop. It is a website run by a volunteer who we will speak to today, LeAnne McCoy. She has been workin on it for years and it shows all kinds of great partners who are making a great variety of impact around the world. LeAnne is also a mom of a three year old, and we get a very cute guest appearance from her. This is a really short episode today; I hope it is an easy way for you guys to get more ideas about ways you can shop consciously and with a positive impact. Enjoy!
Rachel: Hi LeAnne! Thanks so much for being here with us today!
Rachel: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, and what is it that you do?
LeAnne: Yes. I'm a mother of six children, ages 2-11. That keeps me pretty busy. I am also a piano teacher. I am the creator of Change the World by How You Shop, an online ethical shopping guide. The idea behind my website is to make it easy for people to find products that are making a difference in the world by breaking it down into every little category you might be looking for, from keychains to kitchen stuff. That is something I voluntarily put my time into to be able to make it easier for ethical shoppers to find things, as well as support over 100 different shops and brands I have on my site that are making a difference all around the world.
Rachel: Very cool. We found Change the World by How You Shop when I was originally looking for brands for Simple Switch. More recently, LeAnne and I met through an ethical shopping Facebook page. It is really fun. I wish the community was bigger, but it is kind of fun how small it is. What was your inspiration to get started with that? What drove you?
LeAnne: I for years had been concerned about where the products I bought came from and trying to find things as I heard stories about forced labor and some of the horrible conditions in sweatshops where some of the products we buy were coming from. I would be looking around trying to find where the products I bought came from. After years of doing this, the more I learned the more products I thought I needed an alternative for. It was very difficult to find the alternatives. When I started looking to find ethical shopping guides, there wasn’t much available five years ago when I was looking. Finally, I realized that I had to make one. That was my inspiration. When I talked to you the other day, it seemed that that was a lot of the inspiration behind Simple Switch as well, trying to make it easier to find the products.
Rachel: Absolutely. That is why our name is what it is, Simple Switch. Very similarly to you, I would be just trying to find a pair of pants and would have to do hours of research to figure out if it was really an ethically made pair of pants, what does ethically made even mean, and what I was looking for. Having someone like you who is compiling those things is such a gift. Can you tell me a little bit about -- I’m guessing you get customer feedback from people who use your site. Can you tell me a favorite story of maybe a customer who has been touched by this amazing service that you are able to provide?
LeAnne: Yeah, that is probably one of the funnest things I get to do through my site. Every once in a while, I will get an email from a customer who has been looking on my site from a customer who is trying to find something and emailed me to ask where to find it. That is one of my favorite things to do is be able to help connect people to what they are looking for. I got an email from a woman the other day who had watched the documentary The True Cost and was starting to think about making the switch to shopping for ethical fashion, but was feeling a bit overwhelmed by it. Her daughter was starting in a gymnastics class and she needed long sleeved black shirts for her daughter. She emailed me and I was able to find a whole list of places where she could get it. Her response was “wow, maybe this ethical shopping thing won’t be as hard as I thought”. That was a big encouragement for me.
Rachel: Yeah! What a huge encouragement to her as well. You have totally changed her perspective on what ethical shopping has to be like. A lot of people do think that it is going to be very difficult. That is awesome. I love that you are so generous with your time, to be able to really seek those things out for people when they are looking for something that specific. How about from the impact side? Have there been companies who have been able to attribute a sale to you, or have you heard from them in a special way?
LeAnne: Every once in a while I will get an email from one of the brands on my site just letting me know that they have seen a lot of traffic from my site. We will talk to someone who bought something because they found it on my site. That for me is always a huge thing because of all the time I pour into this. I like to see that it is making an impact. You can look at the numbers on google and see that so many people looked at my website. It makes me wonder if anyone actually found it helpful, so it is great to get that kind of feedback.
Rachel: Absolutely; for sure. I think that is a reason for people like us to do what we do, knowing that we really are supporting these impactful companies. Previous podcast interviews have been with our companies that we partner with, and it is really fun to hear about what their sales are able to do. Any one like you or Simple Switch is able to direct more sales to that. It is a really special thing; sometimes it brings me to tears.
LeAnee: Yeah, I agree. When I read about these stories and hear about what all these brands are doing it is hard because I would love to do what they are doing. I would love to be able to visit these countries that I keep learning about; I would love to be able to do that really hands on work. But that isn’t something that I can do at this point in my life. Being able to support them is really my calling because I am behind the scenes. I think one of the biggest encouragements to me in one of those times where I was about to give up on Change the World by How You Shop was reading the book Rhinestone Jesus by Kirsten Welsh, the founder of Mercyhouse. The title of the book kind of put me off for a while. I was confused on what it was about. Somehow I ended up with the book and I started reading it. It is the story about how she founded Mercyhouse. They started in Kenya with a maternity home with pregnant girls in the slums providing the medical support they need and the support needed for the babies to be able to live and grow and thrive. This then leads to a fair trade business employing some of their mothers and the products they sell. It is quite the story. The most encouraging things to me in the entire book was when she talked about a woman who helped her out when they needed diapers for the maternity home. Somebody emailed her and said “maybe you could get them from such-and-such place”. She wrote back and said “I just don’t have the time”. Well, this lady actually took the time to write the company and actually got a donation of boxes and boxes of diapers. She talked about what a huge help that was for her because she had all the hands-on stuff she had to do and didn’t have time for the little details. That’s when I realized that you and I can be such a difference because these people are very busy with all the things they are doing. But we can come behind and be that kind of support. That really showed me that that is why I do what I do.
Rachel: Absolutely. We talk a lot about bringing lift to our partners and I believe that is exactly what you are speaking to. They are already doing incredible work, but how can we go and make the load lighter? How can we go and increase the effectiveness of one of their ads? Things like that; really just being able to exponentially increase the impact they are able to have through partners like your website and ours. That’s amazing. At Simple Switch, we often use the phrase positive impact purchasing to explain what we do. What does that mean to you, and why do you think consumers should even care about what they are buying?
LeAnne: I think the positive part of that phrase is important because why should people care? I think you start to learn, in the world of ethical shopping, about human trafficking, forced labor, unsafe sweatshops where people are dying in unsafe conditions, and just the many people being exploited around the world to create products. You start learning that and it is very easy to just get paralyzed by fear and guilt, to be overwhelmed by all that information, and be confused on what to do with it. I think the common response is to try and shove it to the back of your mind and not think about it, because it is too much to think about how you can make a difference. I think by focusing on the positive that is when you start to realize when you purchase a product from Simple Switch, or any of the other brands or shops that I promote on my site, you are having a positive impact on someone’s life and you know you are making a difference. That is where it becomes powerful. I tell people all the time that it is not as much about what you don’t buy, but about what you deliberately shoes to buy that makes a difference. Every time you make one of those purchases you know you are making a difference. You can learn about the difference and learn about who made the product. That is such a powerful thing for encouraging people that they can make a difference. I like your name, Simple Switch, which shows that just by making a few simple switches you can have an impact.
Rachel: Yeah. I know that there are a lot of companies that are doing something similar to what we do, but I think our big goal is to avoid that burn out that you were talking about. If you are having to do all the research, it is new to you, and it feels so overwhelming evil with the things some people are dealing with, it can be really tough. I definitely agree with you. The cool thing you mentioned is that it isn’t about what you don’t buy but about what you do. When you do choose to make those purchases, it automatically stops you from making those purchases that are going to have the negative impact. It is replacing it. That is what we love about the idea of the switch. We are all for, especially environmentally, buying less. We are not trying to encourage people to consume, consume, and consume, but when they are able to make that switch, for instance on our website we have toilet paper, they are already going to have to buy that. If they switch to our company then it has that positive impact as well as reducing the negative impact. It is just all a chain reaction and it is really fun when you are able to see what your purchases are doing around the world.
LeAnne’s Daughter: Can I say hi?
LeAnne: This is Kimberly, my 2 year old.
Rachel: Love it.
LeAnne: Can you say hi?
Rachel: Hi Kimberly!
LeAnne: I love that you have practical things like toilet paper and pencils on your site. Things like that can get frustrating when you are trying to find it ethically made.
Rachel: Totally. Because there is stuff that we do need in our households. People are always really surprised by that. I went to a design thinking workshop yesterday and we were talking about our value proposition. I used the word everyday goods, and people got so skeptical. They asked what I meant by everyday goods and I said “What do you think, what would you hope that we have?”. They said they would think things like shampoo and toilet paper, and I mentioned that those are two of our best sellers. So people are always relieved to see that we have things that aren't just artistry. Those things are awesome, but they are not always things that you need. People are always very excited that we also carry every dagoods that they would be buying anyway.
LeAnne: Yes, being able to make a difference just through those practical everyday purchases.
Rachel: Definitely. Well, LeAnne, is there anything else that you think our listeners should know about your website, or about the impact shopping industry as a whole?
LeAnne: I think one of the encouragement is its growing. I said five years ago when I tried to look for something that is hard to find, it no longer is, even the women who emailed me trying to find the long sleeved black shirts. It is possible to find the items that you want, and there are more shops and brands that are popping up all the time. Now is a better time than ever to get into it because the movement is growing and we are finding more stuff even in the grocery store and Amazon, places where people shop all the time. Making an impact has become a lot easier. Obviously, Simple Switch is doing a lot to make it easier as well.
Kimberly: Can I say hi?
Rachel: Thank you so much. Hello again! Maybe now we will say bye. Kimberly, can you say bye?
LeAnne: She said bye. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast.
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. And we can’t wait to be on Change the World by How You Shop. I know you guys are planning on putting some of the Simple Switch stuff up there so people who are looking for this kind of stuff can find what we are selling. Listeners, go check out her website. It gives a lot of suggestions on how to buy in the way that I know you all are trying to.
LeAnne: Yeah! Thank you so much! I was looking on your site and I saw so many cool products that would be a great addition to my site. I’m super excited.
Rachel: Awesome! Have a wonderful rest of your day; thanks for joining us!
LeAnne: Bye! You too!
Kimberly: Thanks for joining us!
Outro: Thanks so much for joining me today. If you'd like this episode, you can support us by leaving a great review, sharing with your friends and subscribing. Thanks for caring about our planet and the people on it. We'll see you again soon.